NPR layoffs: National Public Radio did a big round of layoffs. The tote-bag-clad, sultry-monotoned folks over at NPR haven't been able to close a $30 million budget gap. So, layoffs. The powers that be cut four shows, including (gasp) Invisibilia, Louder Than a Riot and Rough Translation, shows that appealed to younger and more-diverse audiences. In total, NPR plans to lay off over 100 staffers. This is the largest NPR layoff since 2008.

Blooms tied to economic boon: In Japan, cherry blossom tourism creates $4.7 billion in economic activity. That means a lot of pressure goes to the guy responsible for predicting when the blossoms will bloom. Predicting blooms means collecting temperature models year-round and plugging them into computer models. This is an entire job in Japan, and it's highly competitive and incredibly difficult. Tracking the peak bloom—which lasts only a week—is tricky, especially with climate change putting everything on the fritz.

Capital gains tax ruling coming today: The Washington State Supreme Court plans to release its ruling on whether the tax on high investments approved in 2021 is legal or whether it counts as income, which would be illegal in a state with an ass-backwards tax system like ours. The tax would fund education. Since I am no soothsayer, I have no idea when this ruling will come, but I'll update this little blurb accordingly. Speaking of updates, here's one now from Rich: 

Good news: The Court upheld the capital gains tax, which levies a 7% tax on stock profits over $250,000. This means Washington can continue raising about $500 million per year from our richest residents to fund early education programs. This also means State House and Senate budget-writers won't have to make massive cuts next year, as they assumed the proceeds from the tax in their current budget proposals. It also paves the way for Seattle to pass its own capital gains tax if it wants to make our system a little less regressive and pay for stuff we desperately need.

Bad news: Washington cannot impose a progressive income tax because, in the 1930s, a bunch of men in black robes ruled that income was property. The state constitution says we can only tax property up to 1%, and the rate has to be flat. In its decision on the capital gains tax, the Court could have overturned that precedent and opened the door to an income tax, but it didn't. I'm not a lawyer, but, it looks like court took the coward's way, a middle-ground approach that preserves the tax while also preserving the most regressive tax code in the nation.

That said, they declined to consider overturning the bad precedent because it didn't apply to the capital gains tax. I'd say that means a city could try to pass a progressive income tax, get sued, and have the Supreme Court review it, but Seattle tried that in 2017 and the Court knocked it down in 2020. Anyway, I'm going to call 5 lawyers now and get 10 different opinions. Be back soon.

Thanks, Rich, Okay, back to me. 

US airstrikes in Syria: In response to a drone strike from a suspected Iranian-made drone that killed an American contractor and injured six other Americans, the US carried out airstrikes "on sites in Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard," the Associated Press reports. The strikes killed at least four people. Hm. This doesn't seem to be the best approach for deescalating tensions across the Middle East.

DUIs aplenty in Washington: Each year, according to Washington State Patrol, DUI-caused crashes increase in Washington. KING 5 reports that so far this year WSP has investigated 518 DUI crashes. Last year, WSP investigated 2,900 DUI crashes. As you can imagine, deaths from DUI crashes are increasing, too. Stop drinking and driving, you imbeciles.  

Well, at least Mudede is happyIt will be gray, wet, and cold.

Something's fishy: The Washington State Department of Health wants you to watch your lamprey intake. The jawless, ancient, eel-like bloodsuckers are flush with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, manmade chemicals you probably don't want in your body. If you limit your lamprey consumption to four days a week, you'll be just fine, the Department of Health says. Any more than that and you're dancing with the devil. 

For once, I wish I was in Spokane: Don't tell anyone I said that. But, yeah, Spokane somehow (clear skies, less light pollution) saw the Northern Lights last night. 

Disney World boosts minimum wage: Service workers at Disney World will see a boost in their starting minimum wages from $15 to $18 after worker unions proposed a new contract. The change also comes with better health benefits and tuition reimbursement. Disney could set the tone for the rest of the tourism industry throughout central Florida. Maybe Disney World really is where dreams come true. The dreams of course being things like being able to pay rent and survive in the hellscape that is America. 

Read this Q&A: In Florida, at a charter school called the Tallahassee Classical School, the principal was forced to resign after parents complained about a teacher showing sixth graders Michelangelo's David statue. Slate interviewed the chair of the school board, Barney Bishop III, and it's a wild ride. 

Former Brazilian president keeps getting gifts from Saudi Arabia: Former president Jair Bolsonaro, who you may remember from his work destroying the Amazon rain forest or from how his supporters did their own Jan 6 after he lost his election, received a set of jewels from Saudi Arabia. A government watchdog group voted that Bolsonaro had five days to give the jewels to authorities. This is the second set of Saudi jewels he's received. The first set, however, was seized by customs. The United Arab Emirates also gifted Bolsonaro some weapons. In his defense, Bolsonaro's lawyer said Bolsonaro "received the goods in a 'very personal' manner and there wasn't any wrongdoing."

New Starbucks CEO could be your barista: Laxman Narasimhan, who took over as CEO of Starbucks this week, earned a barista certificate before taking his new gig. He said part of his plan as the big boss will be to work in stores as a barista for half a day each month. Let's put him in the original Starbucks down at Pike Place and see how he handles those tourists.

TikTok went to Washington: TikTok CEO Shou Chew spent five hours being grilled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday as the US weighs whether to ban the Chinese-based app. Around 150 million Americans—nearly half of all Americans—use the app, and lawmakers are concerned about the Chinese government potentially having access to this data or being able to influence users. Chew and TikTok proposed "Project Texas," a $1.5 billion effort to keep all of American TikTok users' data housed on U.S. soil. Lawmakers seemed dubious of this effort. It's unclear what TikTok's fate will be. Vox has more on the hearing here. 

As you can imagine: A lot of the questioning from these ancient lawmakers sound like this:

ICYMI: Gwyneth Paltrow is on trial for allegedly crashing into a man on a Park City, Utah ski slope in 2016 and not stopping. The man suffered four broken ribs and a concussion. He says he can't even enjoy wine tastings anymore because of his injuries. Paltrow's lawyer called the whole suit against Paltrow, which asks for $300,000 in damages for her alleged reckless skiing, "B.S." Paltrow could take the stand today.